Album Reviews: Future Islands, Perfect Pussy, Architecture in Helsinki

Future-Islands-Singles2

 Future Islands- Singles

Release Date: 03/24/2014

Grade: B+

Future Islands is a band that’s difficult to throw into a musical category. There’s heavy use of synthesizers, and genre wise it’s somewhere between pop and rock, but the way that the vocals seem to clash with the instrumentation in an unexpectedly fitting way gives this band their own unique sound. It’s difficult to confuse a Future Islands album with anything else, and their 4AD debut Singles reveals that they are still capable of creating the great sounds which have defined their discography and live performances in the past. Singles is filled with consistently pleasant listens which can either soothe your mind such as “A Song for Our Grandfathers”, or give you an easy excuse to dance like what “Sun in the Morning” provides. It caps out at a B+ here only because Singles sounds just like what it’s name suggests, a collection of singles which lacks the continuity of a great album. That being said, this album will be a great one to throw on and relax to for the upcoming months surely!

Top Tracks: “Seasons (Waiting on You)”, “Sun in the Morning”

Say Yes to Love

Perfect Pussy- Say Yes To Love

Release Date: 03/18/2014

Grade: B

Things have been progressing rather quickly for the noise-rock band who hail from Syracuse. It started with them gaining the attention of national music publications who shared their singles last year, and it’s now grown to both give them a record deal and allow them to become one of the top live-performance stories of the past CMJ festival in New York City. Say Yes to Love clocks in at twenty-three minutes long and contains eight tracks, careening between energy paced rock and long segments of transitional empty noise in the process. These qualities make the listen seem more similar to a demo tape than a debut album, but the rawness of the approach actually helps here more than it hurts because it helps to create the feeling of music which is immediately present to the listener. Perfect Pussy gets a lot of the credit that they do because of how consistently this immediacy is present in their music, but the band really does needs to improve significantly in songwriting before they can claim to fully deserve the attention which they’ve received thus far. It’s doubtful that the band will be sending out apology notes for this however, and to be fair if I could claim a song as good as “Interference Fits” is then I probably wouldn’t be doing that either. It might just be that consistently good songs will require being patient with the band who have received about every opportunity except that up until this point.

Top Tracks: “Interference Fits”, “Big Stars”
Now+4Eva

Architecture in Helsinki- Now + 4EVA

Release Date: 03/28/2014

Grade: C-

This Australian indie-pop group’s music used to be identified by how simple it was to enjoy in earlier albums of theirs like In Case We Die and Fingers Crossed. Those were albums which although light in substance at times, remained fun and at least semi-thought provoking for their duration. Perhaps a band creating their fifth studio album has a good reason to stray from this, but the combination of pop and disco qualities on Now + 4Eva has turned Architecture in Helsinki into a group who’s lost touch with their sentimentality in a similar sense to what’s happened to Ra Ra Riot post-The Rhumb Line. It’s discouraging to listen to because it’s obvious in the opening moments of the first track “In the Future” that this album will accept loose hypotheticals as legitimate song topics and rely on pop qualities to save the song. The group is still very good at overlapping vocals and added instrumentations to their credit, but I’d argue that these are strengths which have been displayed elsewhere in their discography even more impressively than on Now +4Eva. From here on out it appears that there are two justifiable routes for the band: either fully committing to a more electronic sound with the focus being set upon top notch production, or returning to a more stripped-down sound with focus placed upon creatively genuine song topics. Anything else just damages the lasting perception of the work which has been completed beforehand.

Top Tracks: “Born to Convince You”, “Dream a Little Crazy”

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Album Reviews: Beck, The War on Drugs, Foster the People

Morning Phase

Beck- Morning Phase

Release Date: 02/21/2014

Grade: B+

Beck is an excellent musician to familiarize yourself with if you enjoy an artist who’s willing to challenge themselves consistently in redefining their sound. Throughout his discography his music has changed drastically, from early lo-fi recordings to sarcastic electronic funk, the man has covered a lot of the possible sounds on the spectrum. Morning Phase is an album which is meant to exist as the companion to an album which is commonly viewed as one of Beck’s best in Sea Change, and this new album carries over similar qualities from there in how it displays Beck in the most straight-forward way we’ve been able to access his music yet. A lot of the focus on Morning Phase is placed upon the harmonies present, which alongside the orchestral pop qualities makes this a pretty product to listen to. The negative here is that this newest release does lack the ambitiousness of the best material which Beck has been involved in, but it doesn’t stop Morning Phase from being an easily enjoyable record from front to back.

Top Tracks: “Blue Moon”, “Morning”

Lost in the Dream

The War on Drugs- Lost in the Dream

Release Date: 03/18/2014

Grade: A-

When Kurt Vile left The War on Drugs it didn’t have to much to do with stylistic differences between himself and the band, the semi-shoegaze and ambient sounds of last year’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze are easily compared to work done here on Lost in the Dream afterall. The reported reason for why this separation actually occurred is that Vile wanted to focus his attention to his solo career, but here we’re able to see that another reason for why it may have occurred is that the group would have received significant input from Adam Granduciel whether Vile wanted to be the primary voice in this project or not. I state this because The War on Drugs hasn’t missed a step yet, and for that you give credit to the band for creating consistently interesting musical compositions filled with well placed jams and fantastic production. Lost in the Dream is a terrific album to just lose yourself to, it’s a relaxing listen which doesn’t demand your attention because it knows that you’ll be listening anyway. It is an album which asks the listener to be patient with it however as a majority of the tracks last longer than five minutes and don’t necessarily tell narrative stories, making the music more about a feeling than anything else. If you enjoy listening to relaxing music featuring consistent instrumental breaks than this one would be recommended for you.

Top Tracks: “Eyes to the Wind”, “Red Eyes”

Supermodel

Foster the People- Supermodel

Release Date: 03/14/2014

Grade: C+

The band who was able to capture the world’s attention with their single “Pumped Up Kicks” back in 2011 has found themselves in an undesirable situation for the sake of their career. That’s because despite the ambitiousness which the band has tried to portray on their sophomore release, it hasn’t accomplished it’s primary job of destroying the synonymous relationship between the aforementioned single and the group as a whole. That’s how one-hit wonders seemingly become solidified, because if you can’t talk about a band without bringing attention to a specific past song of theirs then every listener has no reason to hope that the best is still yet to come. Supermodel isn’t a complete swing and a miss however as the group still does display some fun tracks within the realm of pop beauty, and the style does change enough to make it an interesting comparison to their debut album Torches. The issue is that nothing here sounds fully inspired, and the moments that exist which seem to suggest some form of inspiration quickly revert back to mundane melodies, a habit which displayed itself on this album with disappointingly consistent results. Supermodel is a sophomore album which sounds like it was released because their sophomore album was due, but there’s no need to jump off the bandwagon quite yet if you’re a fan of the band because they could come back from this.

Top Tracks: “Ask Yourself”, “Fire Escape”

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Album Reviews: Cloud Nothings, Real Estate, St. Vincent

CoverCloud Nothings- Here and Nowhere Else

Release Date: 04/01/2014

Grade: A

The last time that we heard from this Cleveland based noise-rock band they gave us one of the best albums of 2012 in Attack on Memory. That album captured the attention of many critics because of it’s consistent energy from song to song while shifting between pop-punk and garage, and a lot of the followup after this release said that future sounds from the band were going to lean more towards the garage-rock sound since they felt that was more of a strength and natural noise for frontman Dylan Baldi to sing in. This is what makes the accessibility of Here and Nowhere Else a bit of a shock. You knew that the energy was going to be there, but the band has made a point of not sacrificing their hooks in the process along with a pleasantly surprising amount of vocals being present. It’s a Cloud Nothings album which you could mosh to, the probable preferred method if you were to ask the band, but it’s also a fun and energetic album which the listener can enjoy passively. I highly recommend giving Here and Nowhere Else a listen as this is the album which I’d call my favorite album of 2014 to this point.

Favorite tracks: “No Hear In”, “I’m Not Part of Me”

Atlas_12Gatefold

Real Estate- Atlas

Release Date: 03/04/2014

Grade: B+

Real Estate is one of the premiere easy listening bands that you can turn to today, but there were some reasons to be cautious about what approach the band would take with it’s third studio album. As the band becomes more established they will continue to find themselves in situations where they could understandably flirt with the idea of changing their style for a more vocalized approach, but there hasn’t been much of an indication that this is something which the band is looking for. On the surface that seems disappointing because nobody wants to hear a band release the same album under a different name, but Atlas is better described as being an album with the same sound in new ways.

Real Estate stuck to their strengths here by making a soft-pop album which makes the room feel like a suburban escape, and they try out some new approaches to the sub-genre in the process to show that the band is still further exploring the style which they fit into so naturally. “Talking Backwards” is a surprisingly upbeat and pretty tune to prepare you for the upcoming spring, while “Crime” has an interesting duality to it with progression existing alongside passivity. “How Might I Live” is the most unique track on the album featuring guest vocalist Dean Wareham and sounding similar to one of the softer tracks by Noah and the Whale.

Track Picks: “Talking Backwards”, “April’s Song”

St VIncent

St. Vincent- St. Vincent

Release Date: 02/24/2014

Grade: B-

Annie Clark’s released a difficult product to review for her self-titled fourth album, as it can be a frustrating experience where the music is focused more upon variation of noise sources rather than creativity in rhythm. The music could improve in that aspect substantially, but there’s also a lot of techniques here which St. Vincent does impressively which deserve to be praised. For starters, Annie Clark has a terrific sense how to sing pop with her pitch and phrasing fitting seamlessly into her tracks, and she deserves a large amount of credit for releasing an album which is very detailed in how it’s layered and well-produced (An important accomplishment since a wide array of instruments and a full background choir are added to the final product cleanly). Annie Clark is a very confident musician who’s had the incredible fortune of being able to work with talented artists such as David Byrne and Sufjan Stevens among others up to this point in her career and she has taken advantage of these circumstances to become a well articulated songwriter in the process. St. Vincent isn’t a showing of the genius which her music seems to hint she has the potential of reaching though, instead it’s another tease to place some terrific musical qualities into an album which is good but never great.

Track Picks: “Prince Johnny”, “Regret”

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Kanye West at the Times Union Center

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Last month WCDB gave away 5 pairs of tickets to see the always controversial Kanye West on his Albany stop of the Yeezus Tour.

Those who were at the Times Union Center on February 19th 2014 were able to witness something that was was less of a hip hop concert and more of a muscial happening.

Kanye presented his “Yeezus” album in an epic theatrical poduction featuring a set of a large snow-capped mountain which he ascended to the top of to perfom his song “Power” and then split in two allowing a procession of Jesus to led Kanye into “Jesus Walks.” The set also a featured a glacier in the middle of the crowded audience which rose up and down for emphasis. There was even snow fall for his intimate performance of “Coldest Winter” and a laser light show for his hit “Stronger.”

It was by far one of the most extensive and creative musical expriences I have ever been to. In the close to 2 hour extravaganza, Kanye preformed most his latest, critically acclaimed album “Yeezus.” He also incorporated every notable song he has ever released including a few album cuts from his debut “The College Dropout”, which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary.

In my opinion, Kanye west is one of the greatest artists of all time. Ignoring a few awkward rap lines, West understands synesthesia better than anyone else. His music, art, cloths and stage show reflect a mood and feeling that is exactly true to how he feels. The fact that he claims to be a  humble rap god is some of why he is revolted, but is the same trait that makes him so great.

Congrats to all our ticket winners and keep it locked to WDCB Albany for more ticket giveaways.photo%202photo%204photo%203photo%201

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Song-A-Day: March 2

We missed a few days there while our radio station took a retreat to Dippikill, but its nice to be able to resume this project on an important date. Lou Reed’s passing last year left a strong impact on the music scene as many prolific artists from various genres chose to show their respect to the former lead singer of The Velvet Underground. Today would have been Reed’s 72nd birthday, and he’s one of those figures that I enjoy paying tribute to as often as I can, so with that in mind today’s Song-A-Day is going to go to the track “Here She Comes Now” off of White Light/White Heat.

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Song-A-Day: February 26

Happy 86th Birthday to Fats Domino! Music has changed a lot since the times when this man’s music was constantly on the charts, but the quality of his compositions remains as apparent today as it was then. Congratulations for staying strong, out Song-A-Day goes to you with your hit “I’m Walkin”.

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Song of the Day: February 25

George Harrison was born on February 25 back in 1943, and is perhaps the best example in music history of a musician gaining their voice in the creative process mid-way through their career. Today’s Song-A-Day goes to his contribution to Sgt. Peppers in “Within You, Without You”.

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Song-A-Day: February 24

One of the best upcoming rappers out there still can’t drink legally in the US, happy 20th birthday to Earl Sweatshirt from Odd Future, our Song-A-Day goes to him with “Blade”.

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Song-A-Day February 23

Today’s Song-A-Day gives you some current music, this one is off of Angel Olson’s new album titled Burn Your Fire For No Witness with the song “Enemy”.

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Album Reviews: Broken Bells, Guided By Voices, Angel Olson

Broken Bells- After the Disco

Broken Bells- After the Disco
Grade: B
Release Date: 2/04/14

Broken Bells has been a success story so far, something which shouldn’t have surprised reviewers like myself because of the talent of James Mercer as a lyricist and Danger Mouse’s history of successful collaborations. Their self-titled debut back in 2010 was a refreshing medium for Mercer to be displayed within and one of the more enjoyable releases of that year, but After the Disco feels like it falls short of the achievements of it’s predecessor. There’s something to be said about the novelty of a sound, it’s what made tracks like “The High Road” and “The Mall and Misery” become so easily enjoyable and immediate, but the duo doesn’t seem to have enough variation in their repertoire to continue releasing albums which are unique from each other, and that’s an issue. Everything on After the Disco sounds a bit too familiar for my liking, and because of that the interest diverts away from the actual product and instead focuses upon how Mercer and Danger Mouse influence each other from track to track from an experimental perspective.

All of this being said, a lot of the positive qualities of the band have survived to this second album and it’s no surprise that it has already found commercial success. The pop qualities are still very present and Mercer is still a good frontman for the project, but the lasting impression from this one is that the group might have benefitted from taking an approach similar to what The Postal Service did when they released Give Up and then returned to other projects.

Top Tracks: “After the Disco”, “Leave It Alone”

Motivational Jumpsuit

Guided By Voices- Motivational Jumpsuit
Grade: B+
Release Date: 02/18/2014

Guided By Voices was in the news for some not so great reasons recently, as their ‘classic’ lineup ran into some tension once their drummer Kevin Fennel attempted to sell his drum-set from the Bee Thousand years in an auction to the chagrin of Robert Pollard. It caused a pretty ugly feud between the two which led to Fennel’s publicized dismissal from the band, but the entire altercation has once again proven that the music of Guided By Voices will stop for no man. Motivational Jumpsuit is the first of two albums which are scheduled for release in 2014 by the band, and it captures Guided By Voices’ energetic, interesting, and diverse musical style well. The single is the first track in the album titled “Littlest League Possible” and it leaves an impression for it’s immediacy before seamlessly transitioning into “Until Next Time” which offhand references Mario Andretti in the opening lines. Pollard knows what he’s doing when he creates an album by this point in his career, and Motivational Jumpsuit strikes me as an album which was created with more attention to the details then it’s predecessors in this new revival-esque era for the band, a good effort by them.

Top Tracks: “Until Next Time”, “Some Things Are Big and Some Are Small”

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Angel Olson- Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Grade: B
Release Date: 02/18/14

A more difficult listen than the other albums, Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a soft, intimate album about the longing for social independence after the break up. She does this in a similar style to what Sharon Van Etten did on Tramp in 2012 where social anxiety was discussed by stripping down the music and making the vocals sound narrative in nature. The honesty in the lyrics is the best quality of a well-produced album, creating an interesting listen which asks the listener to remain patient with the slower portions outside of tracks like “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “Hi-Five”. An area for improvement for future releases would be to find a way to reach a song’s peak more easily and consistently, something which can be achieved through improved lyricism or well-planned song form. Qualities like that are rarely present at the beginning of an artist’s career though, and we may see that progression become a natural occurrence for Angel Olson, for now she is a good artist with the potential to be very good.

Top Tracks: “Enemy”, “Stars”

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